Sword Art Online: Alicization - 2.02 Raids
This week's episode's title, Raids, has a double meaning. Not only does it refer to the goblin raid on Rulid Village, seen at the beginning of the episode, but it also refers to the ongoing raid on the Ocean Turtle in the real world. While Alice was able to turn the goblin raiders back in impressive fashion, the fate of the Ocean Turtle is still very much up in the air, given that the raider's objective is retrieving Alice from the Underworld.
Generally speaking, Raids feels like an improvement over the season opener. While In the Far North was devoted to catching the audience up on the whereabouts of Alice and Kirito, but not much else, Raids takes the time to delve deeper into details, and is almost perfectly balanced between action in the Underworld and an information dump in the real world. The one-sided fight between Alice and the goblins is quite revealing, as it shows Alice was lying when she said she couldn't wield the Osmanthus Blade anymore. Not only is Alice as deadly as ever, but somehow, her eye, damaged last season, has been completely healed all on its own.
The latter proved to be extremely valuable; through it the basic plot of the season is laid out: the raiders infiltrating the Ocean Turtle have come to retrieve Alice one way or another. The only way to stop them is for Kirito to complete the process first. It seems simple, but that also brings the story to another road block. As mentioned last week, Kirito is currently in no condition to do anything on his own, and while the in-story explanation of Kirito's condition is helpful, it doesn't give any clues as to how the situation can be fixed.
Or does it? I couldn't help but notice that Asuna was staring rather pointedly at the empty STL device next to Kirito's body as the episode drew towards the end. Having gotten to know Asuna rather well over several seasons, it wouldn't be at all surprising to find out that Asuna, sooner rather than later, decides to dive into the Underworld herself to help Kirito. In fact it seems all but likely, as it was also implied that the raiders will be doing something similar.
The one major question that remains from this episode has to do with the identity of the raiders attacking the Ocean Turtle. Who are they? Are they connected to any of the villains from past seasons, or is this an entirely new threat? Offhand, part of me wants to believe that at least one of these raiders is someone we've seen before, as they would need an expert on full-dive gaming, much like Kirito, to successfully go after Alice's Fluctlight cube. However, at this point, they could be anyone, and it will be up to future episodes to reveal their identities.
With the stakes now made perfectly clear, it will be interesting to see where the story of Sword Art Online: Alicization proceeds from here.